Washington Old Hall – Ancestral Home of the Washington Family in Durham, England
George Washington’s ancestors took the name Washington when his ancestor William de Hertburne, who married Margaret the sister of the Scotland kings Malcolm IV and William the Lion, moved to and assumed tenacy of the lands in and around the village of Wessyngton near the rivers Tyne and Wear from the Bishop of Durham. Soon after William de Hertburne took the name William de Wessyngton (later Washington). The Bishop of Durham controlled an area known between England and Scotland that, while technically part of England, was treated almost as a separate kingdom. At its center was Durham Cathedral both the remains of St. Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede were kept. Before the Reformation, the Shrine of St. Cuthbert was the most important religious site in all of England. The bisphoric dates from 995 when the remains of St. Cuthbert were first carried to Durham, with the present cathedral having being constructed in 1093. To recognize the importance and seniority of the Bishop of Durham among all English Bishops, traditionally the Bishop of Durham accompanies the new King or Queen of England when they are coronated. The home that William de Wessyngton built is referred to as Washington Old Hall. Along with the great halls of other leading families of the areas such as the Hiltons, it was constructed to block the Scots from invading England via the rivers Tyne and Wear. As a result, Durham Castle is the only Norman castle in England to have never been breached. The Battle of Neville’s Cross on October 17, 1347 which occurred near Durham is perhaps the most famous of all the battles between the Scots and the English.